sanguinemare

June 30, 2017

Week 1 of clerkships, and a little bit about the dissertation submission process

Today marks the end of my 1st week back to medical school, as a 3rd year student on the wards.  (Is it more grammatically correct to say “in the wards” or “on the wards”?  Hmm…) It’s been a pretty crazy ride so far, and I have to say, post-call day was pretty brutal.

So just to walk you through my week, I’ve basically been waking up around 6am this week to make it in on time at 7am (and I’m fortunate that my commute is about a <10 min walk) to be able to look up what happened to my patient overnight, check in with them, and get my thoughts organized before we round at 9am.  Generally I’ve been staying until around 4:30-5pm, sometimes just to go over my notes for the day.  On call day (Wednesday this week – it happens every 5 days), I got in at around the same time, but stayed until ~9pm, and post-call day, I had to wake up at ~4am to get in at 5am to prep for rounding at 7am to go over the patients the night shift team needed to pass over to us.  I still got out around 4:30pm that day.  So as you can imagine, that’s been pretty rough.

After I get back, I’ve been working on revising and sending out our manuscript the first couple nights to a new journal, and then yesterday I got an e-mail about minor edits for my dissertation, so I spent a couple hours fixing that on post-call night (after first taking a nap for a couple of hours), and finally got the final acceptance for that this morning.  Whoo hoo!  That also means I haven’t had any time to study/catch-up yet though, so I’ve been doing pretty poorly in terms of answering questions from the attending/residents.  It’s to the point where our attending didn’t even bother asking me questions when he went over antibiotics with us this afternoon, which is pretty much when you know you’re in bad shape. Sigh.

Anyway, also just wanted to give a brief overview of the dissertation submission process, (at least at our school) since I haven’t had a chance to yet, and did just happen to finish that today.  Basically, ~2 weeks before the PhD defense, you’re supposed to submit your dissertation to all of your committee members.  They review the file, and depending on the department, they’ll either give you feedback before your defense, or after.  My department does that after for some reason, so I didn’t see any edits until after my defense.  Then, you have 10 business days (aka 2 weeks) to make all the edits your committee requires, which can be either minor or extensive, depending.  Mine were pretty minor for the most part, luckily, but since I’m somewhat of a perfectionist, I also went back and fixed wording, added citations, fixed figures, etc.  That last one took an extremely long time to figure out because Microsoft Word for some reason was not converting pictures right, so I tried asking for help, and that person didn’t get back to me until the day before it was due (and actually they made one thing worse and didn’t fix any of the issues at all), so it was quite a bit of a panic there at the end.  Extremely fortunately for me, I was supposed to meet up with a computer engineer friend for lunch that last day, and he finally figured out the rather crude, but effective, method of print-screening the figures really large on a big monitor and copy-pasting into Word.  So there’s a tip for you, if you ever have issues with importing images into Word!

Anyway, after finally submitting it, then we wait until the graduate school looks over it and sends an e-mail with any formatting or other issues that need to be fixed.  I got that e-mail yesterday, made my revisions (and went through everything again with a fine-toothed comb to check for (many) spacing errors and typos), sent it in, and got the e-mail back this morning saying it was officially accepted.  Apparently sometimes that last step can go back and forth for a bit – another MSTP who went back a rotation before me and is now on the same rotation as me said it took him a couple weeks of going back and forth with the graduate school before it got accepted, but I think he also didn’t realize that some of his changes threw off other formatting, so maybe that’s why it took longer.  But anyway, there you have it!  That’s the dissertation submission process in a nutshell.   And it’s past my bedtime nowadays, so goodnight!

June 26, 2017

First Day Back to Clinics

Filed under: Med School and the MSTP,MS-3 — sanguinemare @ 7:07 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Thoughts and impressions about my first day starting back as an MS-3 student on the wards (on Internal Medicine):

Orientation:

Orientation was pretty chill, but unfortunately less informative than I would have liked, in regards to say… what my actual schedule was going to be like (which, if nothing else, I was hoping we’d at least get some sort of understandable schedule.  Someone even had to ask what call/post-call meant, because there was no explanation of the hours or caps or anything in the actual orientation.  FYI, I’m still not actually sure what it entails, but from what my MSTP friend told me yesterday at retreat and somewhat from orientation today, I gather that there’s something called a “short call”, which goes from ~7am-12pm, with a cap of 4 new patients.  “Long call”, means 12pm – 8pm or so (which is when night shift gets there), with a cap of 8 new patients (and takes over if the short call team caps).  Except here’s where I get a little confused, since my interns mentioned that on our call day, we also start rounding at 7am, which also means we need to get there around 5am.  So, not really sure on that… and then “post-call” is apparently the day after long call, where we also have to be in to present by 7am.  So basically post-call days are probably going to be the worst in terms of sleep deprivation and such (but even then, as med students, we don’t have it nearly as bad as the interns).

The other 3rd years on this rotation seem pretty chill though, which is nice.  Also got to see an old acquaintance who used to be a year above me, went to Harvard for his PhD, then came back to 3rd year here, so that was nostalgic.  Apparently he’s been back since January.

The team:

We have a pretty full team – 1 PGY-3 (3rd year resident), 2 PGY-1’s (interns), 1 4th year, and 2 3rd years.  It’s good I guess so the work is split more, but it also means so that we are down 1 computer in our team room, which worked out ok today because I still didn’t have computer access yet, but will be kind of a problem later.  I ended up having to grab a “COW” (computer on wheels) after I was finally able to get access to the online system this afternoon, and that was a bit tricky to use because it was kind of cumbersome/blocked a large part of the room, happened to have a broken lever so wasn’t height-adjustable, and just wasn’t great to have to use overall.  Actually now that I think about it, I’m probably going to have to use another one tomorrow, since it sounds like everyone else is planning to get there super early, and I’m only planning to get in around 7am (one of the interns said we just needed to be ready by 8am, but it sounds like the 4th year wants to be in IM so is going to get there really early, and the other 3rd year also seems like he’s going to wake up early), so the computers will likely be all taken up by the time I get there. Ah well.

In terms of the people, our group seems pretty nice and friendly.  It’s apparently almost everyone’s first time though, which makes for an interesting dynamic.  This is the interns’ first rotation, the first AI for the 4th year, obviously the first rotation for me, and the upper level resident’s first time on this service.  The only one whose first time it isn’t is my co-3rd year, and it’s only his 2nd rotation.  So far though, other than the interns and 4th year all looking extremely tired (which is actually rather concerning…) everyone seems pretty friendly.  It’s also kind of interesting because our upper level is actually someone from my class haha.  So that was fun.  (And thankfully he’s super nice and really wants to teach people, so I’m glad it was him).  Our attending seems pretty laid back as well, but we’ll see.  He actually invited us to his place for a party on Saturday this morning haha!

My mental status after today:

Wow.  I am so lost, and know absolutely nothing.  We saw a patient with bullae and the only thing I could think of was “epidermolysis bullosa,” but when the attending asked us the most likely cause, I had no idea.  The other med student didn’t skip a beat, and said “antibodies”, and I had no idea what he even meant.  (And now that I’ve looked up EB, which is apparently usually genetically based, I’m pretty sure that wasn’t even correct…)  And what with all my access being limited and everything else, I was essentially completely useless on the team today.  I have a LOT to learn.  Which is why I need to buy the UWorld Qbank tonight and start doing some questions right away haha.  It’s going to be tough to get back up to speed in such a short time, but I’m going to do my best.  I also need to submit our manuscript which got rejected over the weekend to another journal, and still need to re-draft another manuscript and edit some other files, as well as read up on my patient tonight.  Yikes.  Now I know why everyone says 3rd year is really tough (aside from intern year).  There’s really no time to waste on any unnecessary things.  Well, I guess it just means it’s time for me to finally learn to be efficient with my time!  Wish me luck!

April 27, 2017

Got the green light to write! (And a little about the graduation process)

Filed under: "Me" updates,Grad school,Research — sanguinemare @ 1:08 am
Tags: , , ,

Today, I had my (hopefully) last committee meeting before my thesis defense.  Basically, I presented the data I had thus far and asked whether they thought I had done enough work to graduate in the summer.  They said yes, praise God!  So I will be defending my thesis in early June, in time for starting medical school on schedule at the end of June (well, actually I found out that the rest of the class actually starts next week, oddly enough, on block “6A”, whereas the end of June one is called “1A”, but anyway…). The timing only gives me a week or two at home before starting back again, but at least there’s a little break, and it gives me an extra two weeks or so to write than I would have had if we’d done it at the end of May (my PI is out of town until early June, so that was the earliest that was feasible).

I’m not sure if it’s the same at all schools, just to walk you through the graduation process a bit, here’s our rough graduation process.  After the committee agrees you can graduate soon, we have to turn in an “application for degree form”, after which the graduate school will give us an approval form that we need to fill out and return to them 2 weeks before our defense at the latest.  This form will be the official confirmation to the school that we are defending, and they apparently put it on a school-wide calendar.  We also have to turn in our entire written dissertation (usually ~100 pages long) to our committee 2 weeks before the defense date so they can read over all the materials in preparation for the defense.  Then, we have our public, oral defense, where we present our work over the last few years to the public, and then we have a private defense after, where the committee decides whether the student has enough proficiency in their area to be awarded a PhD.  If this thesis defense is passed, we then make the final edits to the dissertation and need to submit the written thesis to the graduate school, where I think it gets bound and also put online.

In my program, the thesis itself can be either in the traditional format (an introduction, a body which has multiple chapters describing work done, and a conclusion), or a “3-paper model”, where essentially 3 individual papers are written up, which become chapters in the dissertation, and they are sandwiched between an introduction and conclusion.  That’s the route I’m going, because it seems the simplest way, especially since I’ve gotten one paper published already.

Ok, time to head to bed – tomorrow’s the all-day orientation for MS-3 year (pretty crazy to think that it’s finally happening!) so better get some rest before that.

Until next time!

April 14, 2017

IT GOT ACCEPTEDDD~!

Filed under: "Me" updates,Grad school,Research — sanguinemare @ 1:16 am
Tags: , , , ,

Ok, a very unprofessional title, and about 10 days or so late (now that it’s officially the 14th, at least here), but just wanted to post a quick update that… after staying up until 4am a couple nights re-creating the figures from scratch because for some reason they were apparently not in good enough resolution the first time and the (semi-)quick fix didn’t work… MY FIRST, FIRST-AUTHOR PAPER GOT ACCEPTED (for publication)!!! WHOO HOO, PRAISE THE LORD!  That means I’m all set for non-thesis related graduation requirements!

Oh how easy it is to bring a grad student joy, haha.

Now all I have to do is… revise paper 2, do all the assays and writing for paper 3, and write an introduction and conclusion… all within a little less than a month now, plus a committee meeting in the middle of that.  Whew.  I’ve actually been pulling 13-14 hour days in the lab every day from last Tuesday until Sunday (minus Wednesday for weather concerns), and then averaging around 9 hours every day since. Apparently this is pretty typical during the end-stage – I ran into a fellow MSTP a year below me in the elevator the other day and after relaying my current schedule, and he was like “what are you doing, trying to graduate?” I blinked a couple times at the irony, then replied with a “why yes, actually!” with a bit of a cheeky grin, and he nodded understandingly, saying “ah, the extremely productive final year huh?”  On a bit of reflection, I suppose that is actually sort of true.  Everyone always talked about the last year being the most productive in terms of both experimental data gathering, and paper-writing, and I suppose technically that has somewhat been the case for me as well.  So there you go – “n of 1” as they say, haha!

Just finished organizing all the miscellaneous parts/templates for my thesis tonight.  It’s starting to feel a lot more real now.  Yikes.

Wish me luck!

March 29, 2017

Struggles of a grad student – Part 1

Filed under: "Me" updates,Grad school,Research — sanguinemare @ 1:49 pm

Today was the epitome of Murphy’s law for a grad student – the classic case of needing to order supplies for a key experiment, and the lab not having it… and then not being able to order it due to a series of unfortunate events: the supply center which I’d sent the order in to yesterday is apparently closing and not accepting any more orders –> the other person we place orders from has an auto-reply e-mail saying they are out having surgery and not to place orders until they’re back tomorrow unless it’s an emergency, then contact person b –> person b also has an automated e-mail reply saying they are out of the office today and won’t be responding e-mails until tomorrow –> another supply center that I found out about from the one that’s closing ALSO has an auto-reply e-mail saying they are out of town right now and will only intermittently check e-mail.  *Sigh*  At least that means I should be able to place an order first thing tomorrow, but it also means that’s another day’s delay before I can start the assays.  At least there’s a few other steps (aka days’ worth of work) that I have the resources for beforehand.

Generally this sort of thing can be avoided if 1) there is good communication in the lab (and/or a good lab manager and/or a good system in place so you can easily check the lab inventory), and 2) you plan ahead.  Both are good practices to have so you don’t need to delay your work just to wait on things to arrive.

Sometimes, however, it is not really avoidable, such as in this case, where the study only recently finished, I only just figured out how many samples I had total, and then found out that there’s a 384-well plate machine on the 2nd floor that we are allowed to use that would make my life a LOT simpler (less reagents used per sample and a lot less plates to run: 12 vs. 46)… but the catch is that we’d have to buy the plates ourselves.  So I decided to try to go for that, and that’s how this happened.  Also decided to order some different primers to try based on the literature, and those need to be custom-made and take time, so yeah.  Timing is so tight right now because I have a committee meeting set for the end of April, and the extractions and processing itself will likely take 2-3 weeks of full day schedules, plus analysis time and putting together a presentation (while writing 2 papers and my thesis).  Additionally, I just found out from the lab I was supposed to get my samples from today that because they aren’t getting in the new freezer until tomorrow, I won’t be able to access my samples until Friday afternoon after they’ve re-put everything back where it needs to be.  These are the little day-to-day things that people don’t really think of being part of research, but are snags that will affect how quickly things can be done.

Anyway!  At least the couple days’ reprieve from retrieving and processing samples means I have time to look over the short students’ Letter to the Editor I wrote with a couple students on a side project that just got accepted with minor revisions, as well as to re-draft my 2nd paper, which my PI and I just decided we should expand to a full manuscript yesterday (as vs. the Brief Report we were originally thinking of submitting it as – there are different lengths and purposes of publications, which I might get into in a future post if anyone’s interested).  So yeah, that’s life at the moment!  No rest for the grad student – at least not one who’s trying to graduate in a couple months.

Catch you guys later!

March 24, 2017

Just sent in my revision for my first paper! (And why that is a big deal)

Filed under: "Me" updates,Grad school,Research — sanguinemare @ 4:12 pm

HELLO all you lovely people (aka the 1 person who may actually see that I have finally posted after months of hiatus)!  I’m so sorry for dropping off the face of the planet, but well, PhD life is somewhat of a struggle and between that and battling long bouts of depression, it’s been difficult to drag myself up to write something substantial like this.  (I have also come to realize that I think almost all graduate students go through a mini existential crisis/period of depression before it’s over, unless they are extremely lucky and really love their work, mentor, and are extremely fortunate in their ability to generate and analyze data, but that is a story for a different day… if I ever get around to it, haha).

… and now that I actually revisited my last post, I realize I have somewhat reiterated myself, so I guess not much has changed over the last… 7 months?  Haha whoops.  Oh well.  Also apologies in advance for the somewhat incoherence of thought on this post as my brain is currently rather fried.

Anyway!

So I literally just clicked “submit” on my revision for my first paper.  This is a big deal for multiple reasons:

  1. It’s a graduation requirement. Of course, this is my first priority right now, so it gets to be first on this list 😛  As a graduate student, at least in the biomedical sciences, we are usually required to have at least one paper published under our name before we are allowed to graduate.  This is because, as I’ve mentioned in my last post, publications are essentially the “currency” of academia, and programs want to help their students show that they are competent and competitive in the scientific world, which will help with their upcoming job search.  The slightly less altruistic reason is that it also reflects well on the department/program/school/institution if they can show that a significant portion of their graduate student population are publishing good papers in peer-reviewed journals (important statistics for funding purposes).

    The publication requirements will vary based on said department/program, school (i.e. school of health professions vs. school of bioengineering) and institution, but my particular one requires at least 2 papers published before graduation, with at least one being a first author paper (*note: review papers – which are essentially summaries of a particular topic based on research that has already been published – do not count towards this second stipulation).  The paper that I have just turned in is my first, first-author paper, and thus is super important to get accepted since I am trying to graduate in May/June, and it has so far seemed to take an average of 2 months for responses from journals, which means timing is really tight right now. Speaking of which…

  2. Revision = higher chance of acceptance (?). Considering this is my first experience with submitting a manuscript, I’m not entirely sure how accurate this statement is, but from what I gather, a revision decision is usually a positive sign for a manuscript to get accepted into a journal for publication, especially if the revisions are minor.

    To give a little walk-through of this whole process thus far, I first started the analysis for writing up this paper a little over a year ago, ~Feb 2016.  The first complete draft was written by June, and after many (many) revisions, we finally submitted this article to a journal in August.  We waited for a long two months, during which one of my co-authors casually mentioned that perhaps it was actually a good sign we hadn’t heard in so long because she had also submitted to the same journal a couple weeks later and had already gotten a rejection letter.  She was right in a way, because in October, we got our paper back with reviewer notes, which is better than an outright rejection since it means that the editors thought it was at least interesting enough to send out to reviewers.  However, the journal ultimately rejected it after the review, though they did give us an option to do an internal transfer to another of the journals in their group.  We took that option and I did revisions based off of the reviewers’ comments.  We then resubmitted it to the new journal this January (there was a brief hiatus on this work as I was out of the town/the country for a little over a month between Nov-Dec).  After waiting another 2 harrowing months, we finally got the decision letter last week, which basically said they thought it was interesting, but reviewers had concerns which made it unacceptable at the present moment. Hopefully that means it will be acceptable after the changes…?  So I made the changes, and sent it in today. (Though a slightly concerning note at the bottom of the letter said that any decision after the revision was final, which induced a minor paranoia as I went to click the submit button earlier today. Heh).  Here’s to hoping it gets accepted!  Which brings us to the last point…

  3. (If accepted =) it’s a milestone as a scientist/researcher.  I kind of alluded to this above, but basically, having a first-author paper in a peer-reviewed journal helps to establish your worth to the scientific community.  The first author is the one who has generally been involved in all the aspects of the study, including conception/design of the study, conduction of the experiments, analysis, reading of the background literature, and writing the manuscript. Thus, in a way, a first first-author paper establishes the level of work others can expect from the author in the future, and is thus like a debut of sorts into the scientific world.

So yeah. In a nutshell, that’s why I’m actually quite happy with myself/life for once, and will likely take this weekend to celebrate (some of us in MSTP are going to Six Flags for a day!) before the massive freak-out session starting next week about how I only

Thanks for reading and see you on the other side (after my defense)!

August 31, 2016

Publishing and Reviews

Oh man, I can’t believe it’s been almost an entire YEAR since I last published here!  I’m so sorry… there’s been a lot going on, and also I’m fairly certain I’ve been actually depressed for the last year or so and only very recently started perking up a bit (like literally a couple weeks ago) so that’s probably part of the reason… PhD life and its ups and (mostly, at least in my case) downs, an unexpected and lengthy authorship battle… etc etc… so it was hard to find anything positive to write about, and/or to summon enough energy/brainpower to write about anything at length in general.  But that’s fodder for another post.

Today what I’m going to write about (briefly) is publishing!  Yay, publishing… the currency and lifeblood of the academic.  In case you weren’t aware, basically what, where, and how much you publish is an important factor for your career, mainly because all the people/agencies with money (institutions looking to hire you, government/other organizations looking to award grants) use it as a kind of surrogate measure of your scientific worth when evaluating whether or not to hire you/give you money.  In a way, it’s like judging you based on your contribution to society’s advancement, which I guess is fair, especially if you’re using, say, government funds to help your research. Where it gets a little tricky however, is when you get into the question of where the articles are being published, and whether quantity > quality, and that’s different for everyone.  There’s a whole discussion to be had about the Impact Factor of journals (which itself has some controversy based on how it is determined), but that might have to wait for another time.  In terms of quantity vs quality, from what I gather, I think (a very big emphasis on “think”) the general consensus is that quality is of course important, but publishing regularly (at least every year or so, even if it’s only a review paper) is highly desired because it shows consistency. Which is bad news for someone like me, who hasn’t even had a single (first author) publication yet, and it’s already my 4th/last year in the program (hopefully anyway), heh.

At any rate, after you submit your paper for publication, assuming it isn’t rejected outright, it goes to a couple reviewers.  These are usually other scientists, usually in a related field of study, but sometimes not.  They review the paper and help the editors of the journals determine whether the paper is ready to be either 1) accepted as is, 2) accepted with revisions, or 3) rejected.  The first two options are obviously preferred 😛 but if it needs to be revised, the manuscript authors need to address all the reviews (either by doing more experiments or rebutting with explanations why they don’t need to), and resubmit.  This process I hear can take anywhere up to a few weeks to a few months!  I just submitted my first PhD-related paper a couple weeks ago, so will try to update on how that process goes after I hear back.  It is currently in the “under review” status (so at least that means it wasn’t rejected outright, hopefully!)

Anyway, what actually prompted this post was that I got an e-mail from the director of the pre-doctoral training fellowship I’m currently on as a follow-up to a discussion we had about hosting a seminar for all the trainees to learn how to review a paper (something we will all be called to do as scientists in the future).  It was quite an amusing article on how to review papers by Greg Gibson, who apparently was a section editor for PLoS Genetics for 10 years, which exemplifies the type of feedback that was often receive from these things… and really, now that I think about it, it must be pretty difficult to have to constantly make executive decisions as an editor as to whose review gets the most weight if they are this scattered, haha!  But anyway, just wanted to re-post that all here for you guys in case you’re curious how these things work.

Until next time!  (Which will hopefully be less than a year from now! ^.^||)

October 8, 2015

Antibacterial Soap is not Better than Regular Soap… and learning from death

So, fun fact of the day: according to our MSTP seminar speaker tonight, apparently the FDA agrees that “antibacterial” soap is not any more effective at preventing disease transmission than regular soap, assuming both are used to wash hands properly!  Did not know that.  And to back that up, here’s an article straight off the FDA site that speaks about that, from 2013.

He also described a painful experience he had had as a clinician, where he did a procedure on a patient, and that patient ended up dying, even though he had done everything technically right.  This, in itself, was one of his lessons – that you can be technically right, but mess up intellectually.  Because, as it turns out, after that, they did a retrospective study, and apparently that patient was at high risk for bleeding out after that procedure, as they’d had a bone marrow transplant before that.  That wasn’t known at the time, but it cost that patient their life.  There are two lessons I learned from this:

The first, which is rather scary and sobering, is that as a doctor, we’re all going to make mistakes at some point.  Mistakes that may even cost people their lives.  And some of them, like the case here, won’t really be our “fault”, in the sense that it wasn’t anything that could be prevented at the time due to lack of knowledge, but in hindsight, for whatever reason – new research coming out, a new technique our clinic/hospital was not aware of, etc… we’ll realize that our decision at that point in time was what directly or indirectly, caused harm to the patient.  To be quite honest, that scares me quite a lot.  I don’t know if I can handle that. I think that would tear me apart from the inside.  And yet… if no one makes those decisions… even more people may come to harm.  It’s a tough job.  I guess time will tell.  I just pray that over the course of my career, I will be fortunate enough not to do anything so bad that it costs a life or cripples someone the rest of their time on earth.

The 2nd is that even in one’s darkest moments/worst mistakes, something good can come of it.  In this case, research that probably has saved at least a few lives since.  He recognized that maybe there was something about this patient that made them susceptible to the procedure, even though he did nothing wrong, and they went back and looked at records and realized this predisposition, and published a paper on it.  So now, anyone encountering this type of patient before this procedure will know that it is a high risk thing to do in these people, so they may be much more cautious about ordering that test to be done.  So even when making mistakes, analyzing it and building off of it may lead to research that helps others in the future.  And I guess that’s how we have to look at it, in order to keep moving forward, lest we crumble from the guilt and sadness of those we were unable to help.

July 20, 2015

This about sums up how I feel about research right now

Filed under: Med School and the MSTP — sanguinemare @ 11:04 am

Other than the sentient animals panel, since I’ve made it a point not to work with animals, pretty much all of these are spot on.

June 18, 2015

Learning Communities, Lead Mentors Interviews, and Moving Forward

I am actually pretty excited about the changes happening in our medical school regarding Learning Communities and just the overall culture here.  Learning Communities (LC) are in some ways the med school equivalent of Harry Potter Houses, in a sense – every class upon entering the school gets divided into one of these communities, and then stay with that community for the rest of their time here.

Having been here for starting on 5 years now, with LC’s having started 2 years prior to my entrance to the school, I’ve been able to see it evolve from something that people didn’t care much for and that was seen as just a small social thing, to one that finally, seem to be something people enjoy and that reps are proud to be reps for.  The first years this year in particular seem to really like the system and feel more connected to faculty and each other.  We are also finally going to have funded positions for lead mentors this year!  It’s actually a really big step for us, because not having the resources was one major reason we believe it was hard for mentors to come to events (since they didn’t have protected time) and for students to be regularly engaged with their mentors.  So as part of the LC executive board members at our school, I’ve been helping to sit in on some of the Lead Mentor interviews.  And I have to say, I’m pretty freaking excited about a lot of the ones I’ve seen so far.  They seem very motivated and eager to help students in learning to deal with the realities of a physician lifestyle, including all the hard conversations, life events, and other things that students might have to go through during medical school and beyond.  They’re also often good listeners and very open in sharing their own experiences, which I think will be invaluable for students to hear as they’re going through med school.

One example was a professor who talked about how difficult it was for him to transition into the clinical years after so many years of schooling through college and the first two years of doing very well on tests.  Another today shared about the experience of seeing a fellow medical student pass away right in front of him during a party after a med school test – that student was apparently sitting at the bar when his eyes rolled up and he fell over backwards, never to wake again.  And then they all had to start the next module the very next day.  How do you cope?  Or another experience of a friend whose father had pancreatic cancer and was dying, but that friend saying things like “I hope he doesn’t pass away this week, because we have a final at the end of the week”… which reminded me of one of my own anatomy lab groupmates, whose father passed away during medical school, and he was gone for a while.  We never really got a chance to talk or mourn with him about it, besides checking if he was doing ok a few weeks later when he reappeared in lab.  Or the father of a family friend of one of my growth group members, who she would always ask us to pray for along with her friend, the daughter, who was stressed out because she had a test on top of her dad’s health situation.  It was always a weird dynamic to me, that she would ask us to pray for her friend’s stress because of the test rather than the health of her dad being a main concern, but I guess part of that was this underlying message some people take from med school that grades are everything.  And they’re not, or at least, they shouldn’t be.  Learning the material and understanding how to better take care of a patient should be the main thing, not getting a certain score on a test.

Anyway, I digress.

My main point is I’m really glad that it sounds like we have so many attendings and faculty at our school willing, and really desiring, to get to know the students better, and to guide them through medical school with wisdom gleaned from experience, and to foster a healthier viewpoint of medical school as a whole.  I’m also glad we have a fairly diverse population in such a small group of people in terms of age, sex, race, experience, and specialty (the Emergency Department in particular has been outstanding in presenting applicants, and major props to their Department Chair for signing off on so many of their staff to encourage participation in this!)  Really looking forward to seeing how LC’s grow in the next few years with such dedicated mentors, and how the school’s culture as a whole… or dare I hope, the culture of medicine in general… will change.  I know it’s already starting with all the emphasis on holistic admissions and patient-centered care, but with this new rise in awareness of health and wellness in the physicians and those training-to-be, I am hopeful that we will train up a generation of doctors who are more compassionate, in addition to knowledgeable, than some of their current counterparts, and that they can become proper role models to the patients that they work with in terms of both health and happiness.

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